On October 3th, 2020, the respondent was in his house in Thessaloniki, when, at around 12:00 in the morning, a unit of more than 14 police officers arrived in his street, with 7 motorcycles and 2 cars. They entered his house forcing the door open and started questioning him based on allegations of a stolen possession.
The respondent, a 27 years old Algerian, had a first “khartia” (police note, a document regularizing a personal stay for a limited period of time) issued in March 2019 and was allegedly in possession of an “Ausweis” (asylum applicants identity document).
Upon being questioned by the police, he denied the allegations and claimed his right to call for his lawyer, at which he was told he could have made the call from the “tmima” (literally “section”, common Greek term for police station). To this, the respondent consented and was then conducted to the a police station in Kalamaria, a few blocks from the waterfront, where he was eventually kept for about six hours, from 13:00 to 19:00, and reportedly denied food and water, despite asking for it.
At the police station, the respondent was reportedly treated violently, and some of his belongings were stolen, including his phone and his money. All through this time, the respondent repeatedly asked to call his lawyer, always receiving a denial as an answer.
Afterwards, the respondent was then moved to another police station that he recalls as being a small building, with white and blue external walls and many cars parked in the front, and an upper floor where he was kept for the entire night, up until the morning. To his understanding, this police station, to which he referred as “Allodapon” (literally “of foreigners”, as in “police department for foreigners”) is located further away on the way from Kalamaria to the General Police Headquarters, commonly referred to as “Megaro” (“palace”). From these descriptions it is possible to assume that the police station where the respondent was brought to and kept for the night is the Border Police Station “Mygdonias”, in the municipality of Liti, north of Thessaloniki.
While in this second police station, the respondent was made to sign a paper and to give his fingerprints, before being issued another “khartia”. Once again, he was denied food and water, and to call for his lawyer. In the police station, the respondent recalls meeting other people held in there, from many different nationalities, including Libyans, Palestinian, Syrians, Iraqis and Pakistanis.
In the morning of the following day, 4th of October, the respondent approached one of the policemen and once again asked to make a call to his lawyer, offering 5 euros that he managed to keep on himself after he was stripped of his belongings on the day before. Reportedly, the officer denied his request, took his last money and tore it in pieces. Later on, at around 8:00 or 9:00, all the people were brought downstairs and made to enter a large vehicle, a white Mercedes or Volkswagen van. All people were repeatedly hit, and the respondent was punched in the face by a police officer upon entering the vehicle.
“I told them ‘Where are we going, in the camp? Or where?’ and they told me ‘You are going to Istanbul’” said the respondent.
Afterwards, the van drove to a location that the respondent could not identify, especially since from the inside of the vehicle he did not have enough of a visual. In this location, all the people were made to descend the vehicle and enter into a second one. Reportedly, the second vehicle was large enough to hold approximately 50 people inside, and blue in colour with a writing of “Astynomia” (Greek word for police) on the outside. Upon descending, the respondent was able to have a view of the inside of the place, and he claimed it looked “like a camp”.
According to the respondent, once every person was made to enter the blue truck, together with other people that were kept in the unidentified location, they were quickly driven to the border with Turkey, arriving at around 18:00. In total, they were a group of 52 or 53 people of different nationalities, including 4 Iraqi women and one 11-year-old Iraqi child.
Upon arriving, all the people were made to walk in line towards the Evros river. Once reached the selected location, the policemen made the group split into smaller groups based on their nationality, beating them with some unidentified item.
“They started asking ’Where are you from? Where are you from? Where are you from?’ and they put the people from Syria and Palestine there, others and Algerians there, some other there”, said the respondent, “I told them I’m from Algeria. He hit me a lot, and told me ‘Just wait here’. And he got all Algerian people, and he put them there with Moroccan people together. They caught Palestinian, and Syrian, and Iraqi, and they put them all together”.
After the selection, the policemen coordinated with two Syrians and two Pakistanis whose task was to drive a small, black boat to and from the Turkish side of the river, multiple times, driving around 10 people across at each trip. According to the respondent, in case the Turkish army force is present and has knowledge of the event, the role of these four “collaborators” is also to go under the retaliation of the action in place of the Greek police officers.
Finally, when most of the people were already on the Turkish side of the river, the respondent recalls hearing screams coming from across the river, where the 4 women were kept as the last group to be driven across the river.
Once in Turkey, the respondent started walking towards the interior with some of the group he was pushed back with, and eventually reached the town of Edirne after around a 7 km walk. The location of the pushback, according to the respondent, is close to the tri-border area between Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria.